Co-Producing LSD: An STS Perspective on Psychedelic Research and Culture

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


The history of 1950s and 1960s psychedelic research and culture presents an intriguing and edifying test case to scholars of STS. Crucially to any discerning account of psychedelic history, the effects of LSD, the most widely studied psychedelic at the time, are widely recognized to be dependent upon set and setting, a tapestry of psychological, social and cultural factors ranging from expectations and intentions to social values and cultural beliefs. Thus, on the one hand, psychedelics' unique manner of reflecting sociocultural environments turns them into an instructive example of Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) theory and its application in the field of psychopharmacology.
On the other hand, the existence of several cross-culturally recurring elements and themes within the psychedelic experience and its related cultural artifacts forces us to consider the ways in which LSD's 'native' effects have intertwined with its highly malleable and socially dependent character to shape what has since become known as 'the psychedelic experience.' The talk will discuss several alternative STS perspectives on the history of LSD and Psychedelics, focusing on the story of mid-twentieth American psychedelic research and culture. It will conclude by presenting the merits and applications of a nuanced co-productive perspective that retains a stereoscopic view of LSD's 'native' effects; the dependency of its effects on sociocultural norms, as well as the feedback loops which emerge through the interaction between these two and into which LSD enters in its relationships with culture, society, technology and spirituality. By understanding the history and dynamics of LSD in society we can glean a vision of the radically co-productive qualities of psychedelic technology.
Period15 Oct 2018
Held atScience Technology and Society Program
Degree of RecognitionLocal